Privacy, Publicity, and the Text Message
Fall 2020 • undergrad seminar
This seminar will explore how we negotiate the distance between ourselves and others through text messages. Texts sustain an ambient intimacy that is increasingly redefining borders that range from the interpersonal—via anonymous mental health support—to the international—via reporting platforms for immigrant communities. What technical and social expectations of privacy do we operate with when sending a point-to-point message? How do novelists incorporate text messages into works of fiction? What does it mean that Frank Ocean can sing, “you text nothing like you look”? Students will apply methods from literary theory and textual criticism to text messages. They will learn about the technical standards of SMS, now twenty years old. Readings on virality, surveillance, leaks, and migration and mobile media will be paired with lab experiments in telegraphy, encrypted messaging, and community mesh networks.
Spring 2019 • undergrad seminar
The luddites, the philosophers, even the tech evangelists all seem to be in agreement that living in a networked world has changed something about the way we understand ourselves as individuals. But where should we locate the shifting boundaries between the self and the publics we connect with today? In this course, we will turn to novels for lessons in how personhood has been configured differently. How have characters, persons, selves, and individuals changed throughout the history of the novel? How do contemporary novelists represent the new forms of self- fashioning emerging online today? How can we use novels to renegotiate the relationship between privacy — the ability to selectively reveal oneself to the world — and intimacy — when we find ourselves disclosing to others the most important aspects of our lives?
Fall 2018 • PhD seminar
This seminar will introduce a range of frameworks for thinking through the history, politics, ethics, and aesthetics of digital media. Units on emerging approaches to contemporary digital infrastructures (questions of selfhood, privacy, algorithms and inequality) will be paired with an overview of the most influential paradigms in media studies. In what ways do canonical media theories, keyed to the analysis of older media (cinema, radio), address contemporary issues in digital culture and politics? Concepts from our readings will be operationalized with weekly exercises that include tactics for or protecting personal data, blocking unwarranted surveillance, and leaving filter bubbles. Students will leave with the basic computational literacy necessary for informed scholarship that both critiques and utilizes digital media.
Spring 2018 • undergrad lecture
This class will introduce students to the history of science fiction, as well as the poetics that distinguish the genre as a unique form of literary production. Our focus will be international, surveying the global production of speculative narratives in several languages (all translated into English). Each of the novels––and some comics––we will read represent a pivotal moment in the development of the genre: from nineteenth-century utopian precursors, to pulp origins, to the postwar Golden Age, and then from New Wave explorations of race, gender, and sexuality all the way up to the contemporary drive toward dystopia on the one hand and fantasy on the other.
Spring 2017 • undergrad lecture
Course begins by examining the historical roots of the concept of “information,” and then proceeds along a “stack” of topics in digital culture: code, interface, device, infrastructure, and power. Each of these concepts is explored through a comparative framework, using hands-on exercises and readings from across the disciplines, including the philosophy of computation, history of technology, cultural studies, science fiction, and media theory. Questions raised by the course are historical (how have media been experienced as “new” at different moments in time?), theoretical (how exactly do we address “medium” as an object of study), and tactical (how can we use our local experience of digital devices as a framework for thinking global networks?).
Fall 2016 • PhD workshop
A series of workshops introducing first-year graduate students to the basic computational literacy necessary for research in the humanities today. The curriculum is designed to introduce ideas that will scale with students’ field-specific research interests as they progress through their respective PhD programs. Introduced tools like the command line, markup and textual transformations, and collaboration through GitHub.
Spring 2016 • MA seminar
Graduate seminar that introduced students to a variety of digital tools and methods through lectures, hands-on workshops, and collaborative projects. Students were exposed to a broad range of ways to critically evaluate and incorporate digital technologies into their academic research and teaching. In addition, they produced a digital project in collaboration with fellow students.
Spring 2016 • undergrad seminar
An advanced undergraduate seminar exploring how naturalist literature imagined itself as a form of “big data” collection, with stories that catalogued the tiniest details of daily life and showed how these infinitesimal moments were all integrated into part of much larger, aggregate social systems. Amid the expansion of quantitative methods in social and psychological research, naturalist novelists sought ways to count, measure, categorize, and classify those elements that previously were assumed to lie outside the novel’s scope.
Spring 2014 • undergrad seminar
An advanced undergraduate seminar on the history of reading practices. With today’s movement of readers from page to screen, do we accept that a change in format can affect the ways we read? How do technologies of literacy – scrolling, bookmarking, page, index, tab, bookshelf – become metaphors in the digital age? Seminar coupled with a lab component for experiments in digital textuality.